Standing in those terraces, on those windswept days, the rain lashing in horizontally and stinging you right in the face. With your team 3-0 down inside 20 minutes, your star striker more concerned with the hair gel running down his face than getting on the end of a cross, and the manager on the sidelines staring hopelessly off into space. You often find yourself wondering: “Why do I do this?”
Heavy away defeats in particular make fans question what they had done in a previous life to deserve such punishment. Those epic journeys up to Carlisle where you are forced to wake up at the crack of dawn and travel all day, only to be rewarded with frostbite and a runny nose. Long has the football fan suffered, and the longest suffering of them all are the fans of Rochdale.
According to statisticians at the English National Football Archive (ENFA), Rochdale fans are at the top of the Long-Suffering Fan Index. (At least they are top of something I guess.) Research into 220,000 match results since 1888 led the team at ENFA to conclude that of the 92 current League Football clubs, Rochdale fans had the most to be miserable about.
Sifting through data regarding clubs match results, their average home attendance, their performances in the FA Cup and the amount of trophies the club has won enabled ENFA to list all 92 current League Football clubs in order of the degree to which the fans suffer. Despite their teams poor season, and the failure and sacking of their manager, fans of Manchester United have most to cheer about as they were found to be the least suffering of English football fans. Liverpool fans followed closely behind, and the three London clubs of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur completed the top five.
In stark contrast to the bulging trophy cabinets of United and Liverpool, Rochdale have not won a single piece of silverware in their entire 107 year history. The Dale, as the club is nicknamed, has spent more seasons in the bottom flight of English football (78 including this season) than any other team. This includes a 36 year continuous stint from 1974 – 2010, where the bottom division gained the nickname “the Rochdale division”.
On the doorstep of Manchester City and Manchester United, Rochdale fans must surely look over enviously at the successes of their neighbours. And though their team are in a good position to get promoted, they will be hoping that it will not be a repeat of their last excursion into League One, where they stayed for only two seasons, before being relegated back to the basement of the football league.
Out of the top 10 clubs with least suffering fans, nine currently play in the Premier League, with the only non-Premier League team being Leeds United, who find themselves in 7th. Aston Villa are ahead of them in 6th, Liverpool’s city rivals Everton are in 8th, with Manchester United’s rivals Manchester City in 9th. Newcastle United complete the top ten.
According to the research, the longest suffering fans of a current Premier League club are the fans of Stoke City. For clubs in the Championship this accolade goes to the fans of Bournemouth, for League One it belongs to the fans of Colchester and for League Two, and the longest suffering of all English football fans, it goes to the fans of Rochdale.
So next time you are at a bar and you overhear a rant from a Manchester United fan about how awful the season has been, don’t be afraid to go up to them and give them a friendly reminder, pat them on the back and re-assure them: “It could be worse, you could always support Rochdale”.